Mark Holland made it two in a row by following up his 2nd place last week with a fine win at the head of a bunch sprint in Corkagh on Wednesday, while yesterday Conor Murnane claimed his latest result from a three man sprint.

The Limit/Semi-Limit race on Wednesday night saw one of the biggest turnouts to date at Corkagh Park, with 53 riders signing on. After failing to make the catch last week, Semi-Limit were a far more organised force this week and got down to business from the gun with a large number of riders putting in stints on the front. Buoyed by its success last week, the Limit group wasn't hanging around either and kept the pace high.

The stronger legs in Semi-Limit eventually won out and the catch was made around midway through the race, resulting in a big and sometimes unwieldy bunch navigating the tight corners of the Corkagh Park circuit. After some probing attacks by the likes of Seán Murnane and Garret Connolly, the big move of the night went away, with Murnane and Freddie Stevens jumping off the front. Stevens, whose impressive showing at the Hamper race had marked him out as one to watch, teamed up well with last week’s winner Murnane and the duo had forged a solid lead by the closing laps.

However, there was some big engines in the chasing pack who’d missed the break and worked hard to close it down, including Mark Holland, Darragh Boyd and Paul Perry. The battle went right down to the wire, with the escape only caught just prior to the final corner. The rampaging Holland didn't pause for breath and took it all the way to the line for the win, with only Jules de Meester coming close to him to finish second.

The sprint for the remaining places was a tight affair with the evergreen Romano Morelli just pipping Paul Perry for third. Matt Williams took fifth spot while Murnane had just enough left in the tank to hang on for sixth. 

A close race for 3rd, as Holland takes the win and de Meester 2nd (video thanks to Dave Hendron).

The Scratch race was treated to a gorgeous summer's evening on Thursday, with 11 Scratch riders chasing 14 Semi-scratch. Organisers opted to send the bunches the 'wrong' way around the track, racing clockwise to inject some freshness into the race.

Counter to the Limit race experiences, following an early catch midway through the race last week, Scratch spent the first few laps dawdling without much pace. Semi-scratch played similar games, thus failing to capitalise on the chasers' lack of coordination.

When the Scratch men began rotating on the front, the gap began to close very gradually. Last week's winner Brian McArdle was first to bridge across to the front group when they got within sight. Conor Murnane swiftly attached himself to McArdle's wheel as he moved up through the peloton, and the pair headed up the road together. Behind them, further Scratch riders were slipping across in ones and twos to Semi-scratch. Valdis Andersons, Tom Blennerhassett, Diarmuid Collins and Liam Rowsome all escaped Scratch to add to the growing bunch.

From there a front group of five eventually formed, with McArdle and Murnane being joined by Andersons, Blennerhassett and Collins. They stayed away for the remainder of the race, with only Dick O'Brien up to the monstrous effort of bridging across to first Semi-scratch, and then the leaders, tagging on to the front group with three laps to go.

Six out front, and six placings up for grabs. The forty minute mark was passed, two laps to go, and the cat and mouse truly began. Murnane's kick was rightly feared, and with a couple of big engines capable of a long flyer to the line, there was a momentary stall as the riders evaluated the situation. Collins was the first to jump, with Andersons responding immediately. McArdle countered, with Murnane stuck to him like glue. Blennerhassett hesitated, but then quickly followed.

The trio surged into the final lap with McArdle on the front, Murnane in the middle, and Blennerhassett bringing up the rear, allowing Murnane to unleash his awesome sprint and easily pass McArdle to take the win. McArdle tried in vain to hold off Blennerhassett's burst, but the latter timed his sprint perfectly to claim 2nd on the line. Andersons meanwhile held on to earn 4th ahead of O'Brien's 5th, while Collins paid for his late attack to take the last placing from the break.

Murnane had time to celebrate his win (photo thanks to Fionn Sheridan) 

Murnane's smart and strong riding has merited a move to Scratch, as well as placing him at the top of the overall league standings. Next week will be the last of the initial criteriums before the first 10TT and a road race. Thanks to Dick O'Brien for the L/SL race report.


Orwell League R3: Corkagh Park Crit (15-16/4/2015)

1 Mark Holland (SL)
2 Jules de Meester (SL)
3 Romano Morelli (SL)
4 Paul Perry (SL)
5 Matt Williams (L)
6 Seán Murnane (SL)

1 Conor Murnane (SS)
2 Tom Blennerhassett  (S)
3 Brian McArdle (S)
4 Valids Andersons (S)
5 Dick O'Brien (S)
6 Diarmuid Collins (S)